Earlier today the Los Angeles Clippers announced that they had waived rookie forward Brandon Davies. Davies' departure brings the Clippers' current roster down to 15 players, including two on non-guaranteed deals, point guard Maalik Wayns and big man Lou Amundson.
As we discussed last week, Wayns is in a unique situation. Although he is officially still unguaranteed, and was certainly not a lock to make the team, the injury he suffered a week ago in Sacramento has more or less assured him of getting paid this season.The Clippers can't waive him while he's injured, and he most likely won't be healthy until after his guarantee date. So for all intents and purposes, Wayns will head into the regular season on the roster. The Clippers could still waive him at some point to free up a roster spot, but the situation is such that they will almost certainly have to pay him his full salary and take the corresponding hit to the salary cap.
Amundson on the other hand remains firmly on the bubble. The decision to waive Davies is certainly good news for him, as there was no way the team could or would keep both of them. However, the Clippers may yet decide to go into the season with 14 contracts (13 healthy players and Wayns) and take their chances in the front court, at least in November and December. Waiving Amundson before the season does a couple of things: it keeps a roster spot open for opportunistic free agent signings, and it allows the team to hoard their extremely limited payroll resources for some unknown future signing.
Remember that the Clippers are already over the luxury tax threshold this season, and are also bound by the NBA's new hard cap, which kicks in at $4M over the threshold in certain situations. Since the Clippers used their full mid level exception this season, they are absolutely required to stay under that hard cap. By my math, they are now a smidge less than $2.5M below the hard cap, not counting Amundson. (Davies had a $50K guarantee in his deal. That money still counts as part of their team payroll this season, but $50K isn't going to make a lot of difference on a $75M hard cap.)
On the other hand, they could keep Amundson for the beginning of the season and still waive him before his guarantee date -- probably in January. That would cost them some money, but it would give them an extra big body -- one that is defensive-minded -- for the first couple months of the season while still allowing them some roster flexibility.
The game in Las Vegas did not seem to bode well for either Davies or Amundson. With four perimeter players injured, the Clippers only had 12 in uniform, and intended to hold veteran Jamal Crawford out to rest him. Coach Doc Rivers wound up using a 10 man rotation -- including Crawford but excluding Davies and Amundson. The fact that the bigs are all healthy was certainly a factor there, but considering that DeAndre Jordan fouled out in 21 minutes on the floor, one might have expected to see Amundson getting another chance to prove himself with only a few more pre-season games remaining. With the announcement about Davies, we see that his absence from the rotation Saturday was no accident. We'll have to wait another week or so on Amundson.
As for Davies, he always seemed like a very long shot to be in the NBA this season, but at the same time I wouldn't rule him out for making it back some day. This is a guy who played center at BYU but was being asked to transition to forward -- even small forward -- at the next level. He measured under 6'9 at the pre-draft camp, so you can see why he has to transition out of the post in the NBA. He seemed to make great strides in developing his perimeter game in one off-season with the Clippers -- he had taken a grand total of 18 three-pointers from the shorter college line in four seasons at BYU but made three in one pre-season game for the Clippers -- but it was too much to ask. If he continues to develop his skillset in the D-League or in Europe, he could find a place in the NBA eventually.
The maximum number of contracts an NBA team can carry into the season is 15, so the Clippers are not required to make any more moves. With Wayns hurt, 15 contracts means 14 players -- and 14 means just 13. So freeing up a roster spot by waiving Amundson, means entering the season a little thin in the front court. It doesn't help Rivers in making this decision that the spate of wing injuries has also limited his ability to test out small ball lineups in pre-season. Will the Clippers keep Amundson at this point? I honestly don't know.